Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc.

Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc.
Observations concerning the Increase of Mankind, peopling of Countries, etc.  
Author(s) Benjamin Franklin
Publication date 1755

Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc. is a short essay written in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin. [1] It was circulated by Franklin in manuscript, but in 1755 published as an addendum to another essay.[2]

The essay muses on population growth. Writing as, at the time, a loyal subject of the British Empire, Franklin argues that the British should increase their population and power by expanding across the Americas, taking the view that Europe is too crowded.



Franklin argues that population growth in Europe has been stifled by the complexity of making a living in towns and by the competition for workers, which has reduced wages. This means that fewer workers can sustain a family wage, and so marriage is delayed and fewer children are born. He writes,

There is ... no Bound to the prolific Nature of Plants or Animals, but what is made by their crowding and interfering with each other's Means of Subsistence.

Franklin states that the Native population of the Americas live by hunting, which requires a large area to sustain a small population. Extending the number of smallholdings will increase population that can be sustained. Skilled workers will still command a high price, because they will be scarce. Franklin tries to allay the fears of British businessmen by asserting that American businesses and trades will not be able to out-compete British ones, arguing that scarcity will mean that skilled workers always be higher paid in America, ensuring that America will continue to import manufactured goods from Britain. Franklin also argues that slave labor is more expensive than paid labor in a highly competitive market, and so should not be continued in America.

Controversial paragraph

In the final paragraph Franklin argues that immigration should come from the "Saxons" of England and Saxony, asserting that "the Number of purely white People in the World is proportionably very small". His observations on the preference for "whites" have been widely described as racist.[2][3]

All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth.

.[citation needed]

Franklin argued that the importation of African slaves was undesirable because it darkened the population of America, which should remain "lovely" by being restricted to whites and Native Americans:

why increase the Sons of Africa, by Planting them in America, where we have so fair an Opportunity, by excluding all Blacks and Tawneys, of increasing the lovely White and Red?

He also suggested that Dutch and German immigration should be restricted, writing "why should the Palatine Boors suffered to swarm into our Settlements?"

Recognising the potential offense that these comments might give, Franklin deleted the final paragraph from later editions of the essay, but his derogatory remarks about the Dutch were picked up and used against him by his political enemies in Philadelphia, leading to a decline in support among the Pennsylvania Dutch. Partly as a result, he was defeated in the October 1764 election to the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly.[2]


The work was cited by Adam Smith, Samuel Johnson, Richard Price and William Godwin. It may have influenced Thomas Malthus in An Essay on the Principle of Population and Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species.


  1. ^ Houston, Alan. "Tracing evolution to a founding grandfather". Philadelphia Inquirer. http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/42112967.html. 
  2. ^ a b c Ormond Seavey (ed), Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography and other writings, Oxford University Press, 1999, p.252.
  3. ^ Joe R. Feagin, Racist America: roots, current realities, and future reparations, Routledge, 2000, p.77.

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